Moscow, 12 July
Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden today told rights activists he would seek asylum in Russia, in his first encounter with the outside world since becoming marooned at a Moscow airport three weeks ago.
The meeting at Sheremetyevo airport with rights groups and lawyers appeared an attempt by Mr Snowden to find a way out of an increasingly difficult situation as he seeks to escape US espionage charges for leaking sensational details of widespread US surveillance activities.
Participants, including representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, told reporters after the meeting that Mr Snowden told them he
wanted asylum in Russia since he could not fly out of the country without travel documents.
They also said that the 30-year-old had vowed not to harm the United States, apparently in response to a key Kremlin condition that he stop leaking damaging information about Washington’s spy programme.
Mr Snowden has been holed up at the airport’s transit zone since arriving on a flight from Hong Kong on 23 June before his US passport was revoked.
Human Rights Watch representative Tanya Lokshina told reporters agency Mr Snowden said “he wants to stay here”.
He has applied for asylum in 21 countries. Moscow said last week that Mr Snowden had withdrawn his application for asylum in Russia after learning it was conditional on not harming US interests.